Flight Review: Garuda Indonesia Economy Class
During this year’s Idul Fitri holiday (or more known as ‘Hari Raya’ in Singapore), I had the opportunity to fly home with Garuda Indonesia. Since the promotional ticket price was really good for the value, I thought I would write this review to share my flight experience. Hopefully this review can be informative, especially to those who have not used this airline due to one reason or another.
Short haul economy class with Garuda Indonesia
Route: Singapore-Jakarta (GA827 – 11.25 AM) and Jakarta-Singapore (GA836 – 7.35 PM)
Aircraft: Boeing 737-800NG
Ticket price: SGD150 return (Promotional price for Indonesian passport holders)
At the airport
Singapore Changi Airport (SIN): Garuda Indonesia flies from Changi Airport Terminal 3, the newest and most modern airport terminal in Singapore. Pre-departure process was smooth. For the outgoing flight, we had three people going to Jakarta but one person could only arrive at the airport half an hour later. The ground staff at the check-in counter was really helpful as she could help us to assign one extra seat for this late comer friend so that we can sit together.
Jakarta Soekarno-Hatta Airport (CGK): Garuda, also Indonesia's flag carrier, operates from Terminal 2 of Jakarta Airport. The airline's International departure and arrival is mainly at Pier E of this terminal. It is no surprise that during Idul Fitri, Jakarta Airport is packed with both aircraft and people. So instead of using the aerobridge, our aircraft from Singapore was assigned to a remote parking stand where the passengers disembark using a staircase and then transferred to the terminal by a special airport bus. This could be extremely inconvenient for some people. However, remote parking at the apron is always a very exciting experience for aviation enthusiasts who like to take photos of planes and airports.
The flight from Singapore to Jakarta was really smooth. We departed on time at exactly 11.25 AM. Air traffic at Changi Airport looked to be very light during the day of our flight, which also coincided with the eve of Idul Fitri. The arrival in Jakarta was also a very smooth process as there was no significant waiting time during immigration clearance and baggage collection.
On the way back to Singapore, we decided to take the last Garuda flight from Jakarta at 7.35 PM. In contrast to the first flight, departure on the returning flight was delayed by 15 minutes due to ‘operational reason’. After we board, there was an additional ten or more minutes waiting time at the end of the runway. Aircrafts movement at Jakarta Airport appeared to be extremely busy that evening. Arrival in Singapore was therefore about half an hour later than the expected arrival time of 10.30 PM. Immigration clearance and baggage collection during arrival at Singapore Changi Airport was quick and easy.
The soft and earthy brown color of Garuda Indonesia economy class seats present a humbling atmosphere when flying with this airline. This is complemented by the soft sound of Indonesian musical orchestra playing in the background. On the way to Jakarta, because it was still within the Islamic month of Ramadhan, the crew played Ramadhan-themed music, giving an additional festive ambience to the cabin.
The Boeing 737-800NG cabin interior was spacious and appear to be very well maintained. According to its website, the economy cabin seats are 17’’ wide with a pitch of 31’’-32’’. The seats are 3-3 abreast with one aisle in the middle. Individual pillow was also given in this flight and the toilet was very clean. I must testify that the economy class cabin of Garuda Indonesia is probably amongst world’s best. In fact Skytrax, the most trusted airline survey site, recognizes both Garuda Indonesia economy cabin and seats as number four best in the world.
Furthermore on both flights, the cabin crews were very friendly. Wearing their Indonesian style kebaya blouse and batik sarong uniform, the crews politely greeted each passenger when we board and exit the aircraft. And it didn't feel like fake gestures. The crews were also very responsive to some of the requests made by the people on board.
There was this interesting observation that is probably worth sharing. Because of the Idul Fitri Holiday, our return flight to Singapore was only about fifty percent filled. As a result, many passengers could freely switch to different seats without much restriction. During dinner time, we noticed how one of the crews had to find the passengers who had ordered special meals but had moved their seating positions. She searched patiently and with dedication to professional service, she asked everyone whether he or she has pre-ordered this one special meal. And she should have found these people after a while. To me, flying with Garuda can somehow give the feeling of being on my ‘home aircraft’, truly Indonesian. Perhaps it is due to the people serving on board, they can give a very different experience while travelling with Garuda Indonesia.
Garuda Indonesia provides an oversupply of entertainment choices for a flight that is only 90 minutes in duration. In addition to the personal TV (PTV) at every seat, each economy class passenger receives a copy of the GARUDA In-flight Magazine as well as a range of newspapers to choose from.
In flight PTV is a touchscreen device and offers a wide range of movies and songs. It included recent movies such as the ‘Avengers’ or for this short flight, I would prefer to watch a shorter video like ‘Just for Laughs Gags’, the Canadian comedy prank show. A slight drawback from the use of touch screen TV is that sometimes it does not respond too well to your fingers instruction. So there is always a room for improvement there.
Food & Beverages
Upon boarding of the aircraft, we were given either orange or some other fruits syrup as a welcome drink. We did not drink or eat the meals on the outgoing journey to Jakarta due to observing puasa (fasting) during the Islamic month of Ramadhan. On the returning journey to Singapore however, we tried both options of the dinner meals. The choice was between stewed chicken with potato and steamed fish with yellow rice. For in-flight food, the taste was above average but not near excellent. There was also a wide range of drink choices covering both alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks.
Flight frequency & bookings
Garuda Indonesia offers eight return flights between Singapore and Jakarta every day. During peak seasons such as the Idul Fitri holiday, some extra flights are also provided. Booking can be made online (i.e. www.garuda-indonesia.com or online agents like wego.co.id), although for now booking by phone (65 6250 2888) will usually give you a better rate from Singapore. If you have an Indonesian Passport, you should continuously monitor for the frequent discount offerings by the Garuda Indonesia Singapore office.